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Heritage's Cathcart dominant in shutout of Salem

CONYERS -- Luke Cathcart was starting for the final time in the regular season Monday in Conyers against one of his team's biggest rivals. A pressure-packed situation for most, but the left-hander didn't seem fazed by much of anything.

Cathcart was dominant in pitching a complete game, two-hitter, striking out 14 in Heritage's 8-0 victory over Salem in Region 8-AAAA play.

Salem (7-14, 5-7) didn't have a hit until Cole Gibson's two-out single in the fourth, and Cathcart struck out two batters in every inning in leading Heritage (14-7, 9-3) to its fifth consecutive win.

The visiting Patriots got the only run they would need in the top of the first as defensive woes for Salem began right away. Phillip Kelley led off with a bunt single and stole second. Garrett Needham, who started and took the loss for the Seminoles, threw a wild pitch to push Kelley up to third, and catcher Jake Rich's passed ball allowed the Heritage lead off hitter to race home for a 1-0 lead.

In the second and third innings, things completely fell apart for Salem. Two walks from Needham and two more Salem errors helped Heritage go up 4-0 in the second, and in the third, the first two hitters-Matt Reeves and Adam Howard-reached on fielding errors, and Howard and pinch-runner Jalen Martin pulled off a double steal with Martin scoring on the back end for a 5-0 lead. After Ryan Gasque doubled off the left-center field wall, Jordan Martin, who recently signed with Georgia Southwestern State, attempted a suicide squeeze bunt, but Needham's throw sailed away from Eric Bechet covering first, which chased home another two runs. Kelley completed the four-run inning by ripping a run-scoring single that scored Martin and put the visitors up 8-0.

"We got the lead early ... it is good for us to have that opportunity to get up early," said Heritage coach Jason Borcherding. "It's always good, especially when you got a dominating pitcher on the mound, as good as (Cathcart) was today, gives us the opportunity to win a game."

By then, Cathcart, who is an unsigned senior, had been given more than enough run support. The left-hander showcased an over-powering fastball and an effective curve ball, which led to a number of bad swings. He walked two and hit two batters, but was in control throughout. Cathcart got four of his last five outs on swinging strike outs.

"Obviously, it was dominating performance in a big game for us," Borcherding said. "For him to step up like he did ... he did a good job of just keeping the ball down. When we pound the zone, allow our guys to play defense, we're pretty tough."

The home-and-home series continues Wednesday when the teams play at Danny Blue Field with first pitch scheduled for 5:30 p.m.